The Un-Tempered Orchestra Paul Dolden

Bach wrote The Well-Tempered Clavier in order to demonstrate the musical possibilities of a new tuning system called 12-Tone equal Temperament (12ET). Bach built a beautiful, perfectly symmetrical building which has become the model home for all Western music since. I wrote The Un-Tempered Orchestra to demonstrate the musical possibilities of a non-symmetrical building, which uses non-tempered tuning systems, many of which have no octaves. The octave, like the symmetrical building, surrounds us every day with its repetitive pattern. My artistic intention is to create a new musical space within which Western and non-Western musical practices can co-exist. I want to create a big modern multicultural family, in which everyone gets along together harmoniously under one non-symmetrical roof.

These artistic intentions to break the familiar hold of 12ET upon our ears can also be summarized by James Joyce’s aphorism: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” The nightmare in this case was already announced by the third century Chinese tuning theorist who was probably the first to observe the musical perfection of 12 ET but also decided that it was “too ugly for human ears.”

In the end, our family gets along together so harmoniously that there is time for musical humour. To pick one of many examples, I will select the room we find ourselves beginning at 3’. This room is stuffed with “free jazz” solos each of which I recorded separately. These solos have been retuned into ancient Greek, Babylonian, and Chinese tuning systems. This room in the house, acts like the “Room of Mirrors” such as found in circuses. Specifically we see our current Western jazz-style of playing reflected back to us and distorted by ancient musical tuning systems. By combining different musical languages and styles we invert time: what is old becomes new and vice versa. Please enjoy these moments of musical transcendence.

Studio composition On published CD work is divided into 6 indexes named Orchestra 1 to 6

Commissioned by the Sinus ton Festival in Germany.

  • Year of composition: 2010
  • Format: Fixed media
  • Duration of the submitted work: 18:30


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